How much do you need to spend on a propane bbq
April 19, 2008 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth spending a few extra dollars on a high quality propane bbq, or do they all just peter out after a few years?

I didn't grow up with a bbq, and my s.o. grew up buying the cheapest Canadian Tire gas grills money could buy. They work well for a 3-5 years, warp, and need to be replaced. I have a couple of questions:

Is it realistic to expect a propane grill to last more than 5 years?

Can any gas grill be kept outside year round in Canada?

Do more expensive grills really last longer? I hate throwing things away. I hate it so much, I'll gladly spend more to get something of quality. But the more expensive grills don't look any more durable, and we're not looking for a status symbol.

I'd love any advice or recommendations, provided you don't work for Webber or any other interested party.

(P.S. we've thought seriously about charcoal, but we both work, and rely on the bbq when it's too hot to cook in the house. )
posted by gesamtkunstwerk to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was just thinking of posting this exact same question today - gesamtkunstwerk beat me to it. I am in the market for a propane grill. I want it to be easy to clean, hard to get dirty, robust to the elements, durable in use, and able to do low-heat braising and smoking with wood chips as well as the standard high-heat grilling. Cost is no object but, like the OP, I would prefer to pay for quality, not status. I will be following the answers to this thread with keen interest.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:52 PM on April 19, 2008

We've had a Weber Performer grill for about 13 years. The propane worked for about 8 of those years, and when it did, we used it every day in the summer, moved it twice and beat it to death. Now, it's just a fancy-looking Weber kettle, which is also okay. It'll probably last us the rest of our lives the way it is. It wasn't a propane grill, but it had a propane igniter I imagine we could have it repaired if we wanted to, but the truth is, we don't use it enough anymore to bother repairing it, and it works fine as a basic kettle.
posted by clarkstonian at 6:12 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: I have my parents hand-me-down Ducane grill. I think it's at least ten, if not fifteen, years old. I grill almost daily during good weather here in Texas, and if properly maintained, this thing should outlast me.

The two big, important things is to get a cast vs. pressed steel grill. The pressed steel grills are the cheap ones, and even some expensive ones are made of pressed steel... but aren't worth the cash you'll spend on them. You can easily tell the difference by lifting the lid. If the grill looks like it was moulded (big, heavy parts, casting marks, etc.) then it's good. If it has folded edges and stress marks at corners from where it was pressed, it's a cheapie, don't buy it.

The thing that usually goes after three-five years is the burner. It gets dripped on and all kinds of crap and is left out in the elements to rust. The good ones are usually made of stainless steel... but they still will corrode, especially if you use a lot of salt. The answer to this is to have a thick bed of tiles or volcanic cinders that come with the grill, or to have a shield over it. I much prefer the type of grill that has volcanic cinders or tiles... they heat so much more evenly.

A good gas grill will cook twenty or thirty times better than a cheap one... things at stake are heat distribution across the meat, warm-up time, cooking time, etc. A good grill can be used to roast meats slowly. I roast regularly using mine, cooking things at low heat for hours.
posted by SpecialK at 6:21 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, SpecialK and Clarstonian. I wonder if climate has something to do with it. I live in a large city, and have no garage, so my grill is left to freeze. It doesn't seem like this should make a difference. We use ours a lot. Cooking on the grill means not having to turn on the ac.

Any more advice or recommendations of models will be taken very seriously.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2008

I think maintenance is a big issue- these things are exposed to all manner of weather, with the occasional jaunt into the hundreds of degrees of heat. Keeping it clean and rust-free will extend its life greatly.
posted by gjc at 6:41 PM on April 19, 2008

its worth it. And buy the cover. $600.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:59 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: check out The Holland grill. best on the market IMHO
posted by Mr_Chips at 7:39 PM on April 19, 2008

My Dad has had a nice Weber he won in a contest for about 15 years. He keeps it outside year-round in Northern NJ, covered in the winter. It's still going strong, although the wood side shelves rotted out and he had to make replacements... I think the new ones come with plastic shelves.
posted by smackfu at 7:44 PM on April 19, 2008

I have had a mid-quality Kenmore (Sears house brand, probably made by someone else and rebadged) propane grill for about five years now. It gets used 3-4 times a week all spring, summer, and fall, and gets kept outdoors all year. It has held up ok; the burners are starting to get pretty rusty and should probably be replaced in a year or two, but otherwise there is nothing wrong that I can see. I did go through and retighten all the bolts a year or two ago because some were coming loose, but that took about five minutes and probably would need to be done periodically on any grill.

It cooks ok -- not as nice as the really ultra-fancy gas grills, and I've always thought that charcoal gives food a nicer flavor. But it was affordable, and has turned out to be good value for the money. I don't remember exactly what I paid for it -- there were cheaper models, and more expensive ones; this was the one in the middle and probably was on sale that week -- maybe around $200? The real advantage over charcoal is that you can get home, go out and light the grill, and be cooking in just a few minutes (I think it takes about 5 minutes to heat up all the way); no ash or hot coals to worry about afterwards, either. So we use it a lot more than we ever used our old charcoal grill, even though the charcoal is a nicer way to cook sometimes.
posted by Forktine at 8:05 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: You can spend thousands, but IMHO you'll never find a more reliable one than a MHP grill. I've had one for 10+ years and that sucker starts every time from the ignitor. My father owns one, my brother-in-law owns one and several of my best friends have purchased them. We all love them. Go the website and find a dealer near you. I think they are not sold through "big-box" retailers, so you tend to get hooked up with a small, locally owned dealer who probably is into "Q" big-time as well.

The only other grill I purchased in the last 10 years was the legendary Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. A fantastic Weber charcoal smoker with a cult following.
posted by webhund at 8:05 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I spent $200 on a CharKing or CharBroil (can't recall) BBQ six years ago. Montreal weather, on a (sorta) covered balcony. The things I learned from it are:

a) A cover does make the black paint on it last longer. If you cover it in the summer, at least do it in the winter.

b) The starter will stop working after the first year unless you are meticulous about point a). Not a big deal though.

c) If you're going to cook year round (like I did), then haivng two propane tanks is absolutely necessary.

d) Know the deal about dates on your propane tanks... if they are new, try to have them filled instead of swapped. If you swap, make sure the year on the tank you swapped is the same or newer than your tank (or go to a gas station where the person can't do simple math, hehehe).

e) Be a stickler about d)

f) Those extra burners on the outside of your BBQ are mostly useless. No really.

g) Even if the lid of your BBQ falls off and drops three stories and almost hits a kid playing street hockey in the back alley and barely fits when you try to put it back on the BBQ, which you could only do once it cooled down a bit, and even if it now has a huge crack in the metal that lets lots of cool air in, you're BBQ will still work fine, it will just have some unique heat distribution characteristics and might not work as well when there's a strong draft.

h) Don't blow money on grill brushes... I can't find the link anymore, but the cheapest ones are the best bang for your buck.
posted by furtive at 9:16 PM on April 19, 2008

^ a)... if you don't cover it in the summer....
posted by furtive at 9:17 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: Absolutely worth spending money, and from the experience of me and my friends Weber and Ducane are great, especially if you keep them covered. I am on my second Weber in 10 years, not because the first one wore out, but because I gave my girlfriend one as a housewarming gift, then we ended up getting married, so we kept hers and passed my older one along to my mom. Along the way I discovered Weber customer service; I wanted a rotisserie bracket for the new grill, called customer service and was told it was on back order. I said "no problem, I am in no hurry; just send it when you get it in, and by the way, what will it cost?" Their reply: "Oh, there's no charge for that." It was there within a week.

To add to furtive's good advice (although the starters on both of my grills still work) cast iron grates last forever and are the only way to get those black stripes that say "grilled" on your food. The cheapest wire brush in the paint dept. at your local hardware store should last a few years for around $5 US.

I am sure there are other grills around that equal or better the performance of mine, so don't assume I am a shill for Weber. Just do a little research and you should be able to find a grill that will last a decade or more with reasonable maintenance.
posted by TedW at 10:29 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: Absolutely worth spending money...

In retrospect, that sounds like "cost is no object" when in reality the grills I described were in the 4-5 hundred dollar range as compared to 1-2 hundred dollar grills of similar size; I had no need for side burners as the grill is 10 feet from my kitchen and infrared elements were still pretty exotic when I got mine (and if you really want to sear something, nothing beats a BGE in full "lava" mode; 700 plus Fahrenheit degrees). After a certain price point for a given size grill you are paying for amenities (among other things) rather than basic quality.
posted by TedW at 10:50 PM on April 19, 2008

I've had a Weber gas grill for about 18 years, 7 of them in nasty Pittsburgh weather. It's as good as new, even the original burners are still in fine shape. A heavy-duty cover is worth the cost too; the flimsy ones don't last very long.

"You'll remember the quality long after you've forgotten the price."
posted by Wet Spot at 4:51 AM on April 20, 2008

Best answer: If I could be so bold as to summarize what a lot of knowledgable folks have said here (and speaking from 50+ years of griling experience):

There's a good reason Weber grills are so popular: great initial quality, great customer service, and the ready availability of spare parts.

There are two things that have to last on a gas grill: the kettle and the cart. Everything else is replaceable, if you can get the parts. This is where Weber shines. Handle break? Replace it. Burners not what they used to be? Get new ones on Amazon. Grates old and crusty and corroded? Drop new ones in. Flavorizer bars, igniter, knobs, fasteners, you name it…over the years I've replaced them all with the result that my 15 year-old Weber still looks almost new.

• Get a good, middle-of-the-road Weber. If you decide on another brand, first check the availability of parts. If they can't supply parts for a 10 year-old model, don't buy from them.

• Get a good cover. No need to spend the big bucks for the Weber covers; I've got a big, heavy-duty generic cover that weighs almost as much as the grill and is probably bullet-proof. It's so cozy in there that the squirrels want to pay me rent.

• Get two tanks. Pay to have them filled; don't swap.

• Invite me over for shish-kabob. I'll bring the wine.
posted by dinger at 5:54 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Would someone mind explaining the benefit of refilling rather than swapping tanks? This is the first I've heard that recommendation...
posted by jluce50 at 6:15 AM on April 20, 2008

Would someone mind explaining the benefit of refilling rather than swapping tanks?

I do it because it is cheaper -- $23 to swap, or about half that to fill. Probably you will also be warned that by swapping you could end up with a crummy old tank that will explode or leak or something; I've never had that happen but I guess it is possible. On the other hand, if you have a tank with a broken valve or other problem, swapping it out at Walmart is a lot cheaper than paying to get the valve replaced or buying a new tank. So there is a place for both.

Definitely do get two tanks, so you will never run out in the middle of cooking for guests.
posted by Forktine at 6:31 AM on April 20, 2008

Response by poster: g) Even if the lid of your BBQ falls off and drops three stories and almost hits a kid playing street hockey in the back alley and barely fits when you try to put it back on the BBQ, which you could only do once it cooled down a bit, and even if it now has a huge crack in the metal that lets lots of cool air in, you're BBQ will still work fine, it will just have some unique heat distribution characteristics and might not work as well when there's a strong draft.

Furtive, I love you.

Thanks for all of the advice, Mefites. I am going to look at all the brands you guys suggested, but I think first and foremost I'm going to get a good cover.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:39 AM on April 20, 2008

Would someone mind explaining the benefit of refilling rather than swapping tanks?

The paint job on used tanks are usually atrocious, a single coat that will peel and rust easily... enough that the guy at the gas station will give you a hard time or flat out refuse to swap tanks, thus forcing you to pay the exaggerated $50 for a new tank (you can buy new empty tanks at Zellers for $18)

Tanks have a year stamped on them, they are good for something like 8 or 10 years. When you swap, the attendant often won't check the dates and so you might get a tank that's older than the one you're giving. This means you'll have to buy a new one sooner. Another chance for them to make $50 off you.

And like Forktine said, swapping is about $20-25 while refilling is about $12-18.
posted by furtive at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2008

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